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Just how "Green" are the "Green Democrats"?

By Scott Tibbs, October 13, 2002

"As the collective energy of the council is utilized advocating for and against special interest issues that do not require council action, the energy available for our necessary work is diluted. For this reason, I am supporting Trent Jones and Sue West in their efforts to gain the District 1 and 2 seats on the Monroe County Council."

Joni Reagan, two-term Democratic County Council member and President of the County Council

This election year has seen an energetic showing by Democrats who wish to implement their version of what is environmentally sound policy. Democratic County Council candidates Bill Hayden and Lucille Bertuccio are leading the charge for these "Green Democrats", hoping to join fellow environmental activists Scott Wells and Mark Stoops on the Monroe County Council.

But the "Green Democrats" have ruffled some feathers in the moderate wing of the Democratic Party as well raising concerns in the community over whether they are too ideologically extreme. Hayden, a former environmental lobbyist, defeated moderate Democrat Travis Vencel in the May primary, and Bertuccio scored a major upset by defeating long-term incumbent Democratic moderate David Hamilton, who the Republicans have not been able to dislodge from his seat. County Council President Joni Reagan authored a letter supporting Trent Jones over Hayden in District 2 and Sue West over Bertuccio in District 1, and Hamilton is also supporting West, according to the October 12th Herald-Times.

Bertuccio's victory in the primary may cost the Democrats control of the seat she is seeking. Hamilton looked ready to cruise to victory over whoever the GOP nominated to replace him, if they slated a candidate at all. But the fact that Bertuccio is much more ideologically Left-leaning than Hamilton may place this seat in the hands of Republicans. In addition, that district was once a solidly Democratic area, but was redrawn by the Democrat-controlled Monroe County Commissioners to be much more evenly balanced. The Commissioners took solidly Democratic areas that once guaranteed a Hamilton victory (and would have again, had the district stayed the same) and placed them into "Green Democrat" Mark Stoops' district, making his once-competitive district safe.

Bertuccio's past behavior may also harm her chances of a November victory. When the County Council voted 5-2 to approve tax-free bonds for the Canturbury Apartments project, Bertuccio rushed up to the bench, yelling at Democrat Joni Reagan and Republican Marty Hawk, questioning how, as women, they could support this project.

Bertuccio's connections with the Monroe County Green Party have also raised eyebrows in the community. In a message to the Green Party e-mail distribution list (the archives of which are available to anyone with a Yahoo! ID at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/btowningreens) she wrote:
"David Hamilton 'you can’t to muthin' kind o' guy needs to be put to pasture... I think you all know that I support the green platform and would work for that as a 'green' dem. I just need to get the word out and since there is no green in my district - I don't think it would be a problem for you. Thanks - whatever you decide. I think you are really doing a wonderful job in getting the information out to the people. I truly support you all." (sic)
In addition, Bertuccio has attended Green Party meetings, and her campaign Web site listed former tree-sitter Michael "Moss" Englert as her campaign treasurer for months. She was also arrested in Browns Woods when Sheriff’s deputies removed the environmental activists who were illegally occupying private property in an attempt to stop the Canturbury Apartments form being built.

Other "Green Democrats" have also been connected to the Green Party. Democratic Monroe County Commissioner Brian O'Neill attended a Green Party meeting last summer, and Englert sent a message to the Green Party e-mail list announcing "I have set up a time, date and place to meet and talk about next year’s local elections and running for office as a Green. This would be an informal meeting to gather and exchange info and ideas with Mark Stoops and possibly Don Moore (both of whom have valuable and extensive experience in this area, which they are happy to share with us)." Moore is an influential Democratic activist and the husband of City Clerk and Monroe County Democratic Party Vice Chair Regina Moore.

The October 12th Herald-Times reported that Reagan's endorsement of West and Jones was "part of a growing effort by a number of moderate and business-oriented Democrats to support them over Bertuccio and Hayden." Can the Democrats contain the Green wing of their party, and prevent enough defections by moderate Democrats to ensure a GOP victory and control of the County Council in November? Only time will tell.